Talking Hoops...

June 20, 2003

In late May, Gene Smith and Rob Evans talked about the drop in tickets prices and the state of the ASU men's basketball program. Take a look at what the two had to say about a variety of subjects regarding ASU men's basketball.

Gene Smith:

'Most of you know why you're here and I appreciate you taking your time to be here. We want to announce the new ticket pricing plan we have for our men's basketball program. Coach Evans and his staff have done a marvelous job with developing our program and put it at a position where I think we needed to be creative and respond to what they put together and make our arena, Wells Fargo Arena, an affordable arena for the people in the Valley. Over the years we have not done as good a job as we could do in creating a price structure that is responsive to the diversity in our valley, from an economic point of view, and so with this pricing scheme I'm really excited about it. It has a lot more flexibility in it for people to pick and choose games, and I think we met our original goal of making sure we are affordable. We did a little research and we believe that there's no other Division 1 program in this country that has stepped forward and looked at its two major programs and reduced prices after those programs have had outstanding seasons. We look at men's basketball, and where we've been and where we've come and where we are very confident we're going to go, it's probably not the norm to sit and lower your ticket prices. Typically, you're getting a little greedy and you're raising your numbers. But this team that Rob's put together, really deserves to have Wells Fargo Arena filled for more than just the U of A game. There is outstanding competition in the Pac-10, and when Stanford comes here, when Cal comes here, and those other programs come here, those kids deserve more fans than what we have had so the pricing really responds to that need. We want people to show up and support this team, so I thought it would be appropriate is Jason went over some details with you and talked a little bit about the pricing structure.'

Jason Butikofer, Ticketmaster:

'ASU will be decreasing 58 percent of our general public seats on both a season and single game basis. Some seats were reduced by as much as 20 percent. Obviously, as Gene touched upon as well, our goal is to create a pricing structure that will be available for a wide economic demographic that exists in the valley. There's a few examples of this pricing structure that I would like to touch on. We're happy to announce the creation of Rob's Rooters, which would be similar to the same concept that we started this year for football, Koetter's Corner. This will make 250 seats available for each ASU home game at only $5 a piece. Obviously, this is one pricing option that will be available and be affordable for anybody in the valley. There will also be an extremely affordable option available in the form of a family plan. These tickets are available at $75 each and this is a season ticket. So we have a season ticket available this year at $75, this is less than $4.25 a game. We will again be offering a Pac-10 package, which will cost $108. It will include all nine, home ASU Pac-10 games, which includes the U of A game; again, another very affordable option. We would also like to announce that we have added 700 student seats to the already 2200 that exist in Wells Fargo Arena. Student season tickets are only $25, which is less than about $2 a game. This year's season ticket package includes 18 home games, as opposed to the 17 last year. The benefits of purchasing season tickets include: ensuring a seat for the U of A game, also will include the game we are playing against Temple at America West Arena, and obviously as we continue to strive towards the NCAA tournament appearance on a yearly basis, we'll give our season ticket holders a priority for purchasing those tickets. We've already received about 70 season ticket inquiries for the upcoming season from new individuals looking to purchase season tickets. A lot of this interest has come based on our NCAA tournament appearance and the returning players that we have. Our season tickets are going to go on sale July 14. Currently we are taking inquiries over the phone and in person, and will also be taking season ticket deposits. Single game tickets are going to go on sale October 15 at 9 a.m., and always information is available by calling (480) 965-2381.

Gene Smith:

'I might mention in there, although many of our seats are tied to our Sun Angel gift program, there's a number of areas in this facility where these new prices are not tied to Sun Angel gifts, so the price is the exact price and you don't have to donate to the Sun Angel program. I think that's important for our fans to know. Rob you might want to talk a little about the team'

Rob Evans:

'Well it's exciting for me what's transpired for season tickets sales because the huge plus is the fact that we feel we're going to be able to put bodies in the stands, and for us to be able to get to where we want to get to, we need to have a home court advantage. You have a home court advantage by having ASU and Sun Devil fans in the arena. So I'm excited from that standpoint, excited from the standpoint that it's going to be affordable for a lot of different people. We are excited about where we are with Sun Devil basketball, the returning guys that we have. We have, of course, what we consider to be the player of the year, the best player in the conference in Ike Diogu, a young man that's All-Pac-10, first team Freshmen All-American, and probably, most likely will be on the pre-season All-American team, which will be the first for ASU. We are really excited about our schedule, we are excited about the guys that we have coming in, we got a number of new guys coming in that we think are very, very good basketball players, and we have a number of guys that were on the team last year, a couple of guys we redshirted, three guys in Kevin Krueger, Serge Angouou, and Allen Morill who we really feel good about. We feel good about where the program is at this point and we're excited about Sun Devil basketball.

Quesiton: Gene, what demographic that you didn't previously get that you think you can now get, what core group of people are you looking for?

Answer: You have to look at the different spectrums, I think there's a population out there that's on a fixed income and they may not necessarily have flexible dollars. There are different things in entertainment, and I think that we have offered them an option now where they can afford to pick a game, or two, or three and come to. Then you have those people who are on a low social economic ladder in our environment, and now they can look at a basketball and see ticket prices that they can afford. It may be only one ore two, maybe they can only take advantage of the $5 ticket, but they can come.

Question: Rob, what kind of lift, from a coaching perspective, will come from a full house as opposed to a half-full house?

Answer: Well, it's unbelievable. Every game that you play, coaches know that your kids are not going to be at the magic level as far as being ready mentally to play, but at some point during the ball game if you have a crowd behind you, then you get to that point. That's where you take your program to the next level. You can't afford to lose home games, and the way you don't lose home games is you have a home court advantage when they're not at that magic level, the crowd gets them there. That's what you have at a lot of places in the Pac-10 and around the country, and that's the thing that we're looking toward here at ASU

Quesion: As far as affordability, where does this put you in relation to other Pac-10 schools?

Answer: (Jason): compared with the other Pac-10 institutions, we are the first institution to set our prices for the upcoming season, but when comparing it with last years prices among the Pac-10 schools, we'll be among the lowest, if not the lowest, if everybody would keep their prices equivalent

(Gene): I don't look at that as much, because I try to look at ourselves. Our demographics are so different. We don't have the population that UCLA has. We're not like Washington. I don't look at us that way, so I never study that stuff.

Question: I've heard people say they won't show up regardless because of your home schedule, how do you address and what is your home schedule

Answer: (Gene): I'll let Rob talk about what we're doing in our future, but we have more than our non-conference schedule. I think the Pac-10 is a heck of a conference and has great basketball, and you're right, there are certain games that certain people won't go to and we realize that. Some of those games are games we need in order to turn our program around. Rob and I have recently talked more about what we need to do in the future to strengthen our non-conference schedule. One, because our program is at a point where we can play those teams, and we have to balance the historically recognized non-conference teams versus teams that aren't recognized who are very good. If you look at last year, our non-conference, as you went into it, people said this is weak in our conference, well that non-conference schedule helped our RPI in a great way because all those schools in that non-conference schedule went on in their conferences and did a great job in their conference and boosted our RPI, but to get to your point, they're not the main schools, so we have to do a better job. That's why we need your help. When you write stories and you guys do a good job, when you write stories about those schools, we need your help. We need you to talk about how good those schools are. All of them are not that way, but there's some that are very good.

(Rob): Again, I want to reiterate what Gene said, people listen to what you say, and we know how good our schedule is. Our schedule was pretty good last year. A number of teams, BYU, Utah, those teams were in the NCAA tournament; Moorehead State was right there. For an example, this next year in our tournament, we have San Diego, a lot people might not know how good San Diego is, they were in the NCAA tournament this past year. Kent State, who we played a few years ago, everybody said wasn't any good, they go to the Sweet 16. The thing we want to do is play good teams, as Gene said, we are trying to do that. We're trying to get home and home with as good a people as we can get, top teams, but we want to get it to a point where people are coming to see Arizona State basketball. See us play as they do with other teams whose schedule isn't as good as ours in the same league. We understand we have different demographics, but we want to upgrade our schedule according to our team and according to who we are able to get home and home.

(Gene): A lot of that is who we were and who we are now. Before, it was not advantageous for certain schools to come and play us, because if they came and played us, and lost to us, it hurt their RPI in a significant way because our RPI was low. Now our RPI will probably be higher, so if they came and lost to us at Arizona State, it really doesn't hurt their RPI because ours should be up there. Two years ago, you couldn't say that, so now we're in a position where we can talk to schools and say win or lose, if you come to Arizona State, it's not going to hurt you in the tournament. Two years ago, that was not the case.

Question: What's the purpose of the game at America West?

Answer: (Rob): We have to play a game at America West Arena any time we have a regional tournament here. We have a regional here, NCAA regionals, and they require us to play a game at America West so that our media people and everyone else that's going to be involved, with that, have a run through. So it is required that we play a game at America West, and for us to play a game at America West, as Gene and I have talked about, we try to get the best team we can get. Gene and myself and Mark Brand have worked for two years, and I can't tell you all the people we've tried to get that's turned us down, that don't want to come and play. You could start in the top 50 and they say no. Of course, as we mentioned here a few minutes ago, we have Temple. Temple is a team, John Chaney is a friend of mine, that's not afraid to go play anybody, so we were able to get them. We've worked tirelessly to try and get the best to come to Wells Fargo, and we will continue to do that.

Question: Why has Arizona State basketball not attracted fans?

Answer: (Gene): I think we have not done as good a job as we should do. I think that this is definitely a tough market from November through March. I think it's very difficult, but we haven't been as flexible and creative as we need to do in targeting this market and finding those people who have an affinity for basketball. Secondly, our basketball program hasn't been to a point where it is attractive enough to attract people. That's reality. We probably never want to say that about ourselves, but that's the truth. Now we have a program that's clean, has great integrity, has great young men on the floor, is highly competitive, and now it's affordable to anyone that wants to go to a game. The total package is there. Now what we have to do is an effective job of communicating to those people who are coming to the stands. There's people who come down from Kansas in November every year. There's people who come down from Missouri, who come down from Iowa, there's people who come down from the Midwest constantly in November and they leave in March. We have to find a way to get those people to periodically say, 'Okay, I'm going to go to that game,' because they can't see their college team. There's a number of things that we have to do. I don't necessarily think it's the Valley, and I've heard your question before, it's not the Valley. We haven't done a good job, and I'm not scared to say that. Whether or not we can fill that arena up, like other schools every home game, really is not my vision. My vision is to fill that up for every home game when we need it full.

(Rob): That's with every other university in this country right now, other than a few places in the top ten that don't have competition. Piggy backing on what Gene said, I think it's incumbent upon us, and me as a basketball coach here, to make sure it's attractive enough. We have to win, that's the first thing you have to do. I've been through this before. You have to win; you have to make it attractive. You have to have people that want to be associated with your basketball program. I think we are getting to that point, because I'm out here on the streets everyday and I can hear people talking about basketball in June and in May. We were in California the other day at an alumni function, and a number of people were talking about buying season tickets in California and coming down for the weekends to see basketball. That hasn't been done before. I think we're on the way to where we want to get to as far as improving our image and getting people in the arena.

Question: What sort of numbers do you expect to get to for basketball?

Answer: (Gene): We didn't look at hard numbers that way, but that is our concept. Obviously, if you can increase your volume, you will increase your revenue and bring people to the games that would not normally come. That's our concept, but we haven't run any numbers to project as we did for the football situation. We just knew the concept was right and we anticipate that we will make more revenue in basketball.

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